1 Peter 3:20-21, “21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”
In our last article on 1 Peter, we noted that by the Holy Spirit, the pre-incarnate Christ warned of God’s judgment through Noah in the days preceding the Flood. During the period of the flood, the vast majority of humanity did not turn from its wickedness but was destroyed by the waters God poured forth in judgment. 1 Peter 3:20 teaches that this was not the fate of every person on earth at that time. During the Flood, eight people were spared because they were safely in the ark. These people identified themselves with Noah and lived to replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1). It’s in this context that we can understand 1 Peter 3:18-20 and why it’s important if we are to understand 1 Peter 3:18-21 regarding baptism. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter teaches that baptism corresponds to the events of the Flood and even saves us.
Some people take this teaching that Peter sets forth as an automatic efficacy for salvation. 1 Peter 3:21 does remind readers that it is not the washing of the water that cleanses but the “appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ.” Peter’s point is that true saving faith is in Christ alone. Such trust in Christ is evidenced by our humble request for God’s forgiveness based on Christ’s work and promises that saved people.
What then do we make of the connection to the flood? The flood waters manifested God’s judgment in the days of Noah. Water baptism is a visible reminder of God’s judgment today. If we were to face this judgment alone, we would be destroyed. But if by faith you and I identify ourselves with Christ, we will pass through it safely as Noah’s family did by identifying with him and entering the ark.
Baptism is a visible sign and seal of the union of the Christian with Christ. The Christian’s faith alone unites them with Jesus Christ who saved them from God’s wrath because He bore it in place of His people in His finished and sufficient work. When Christians have true faith, the rite of baptism reminds them that because they are united to Christ, they do not need to fear God’s judgment.
Noah’s curse on his son Ham (Genesis 9:20-25) shows you, and I that not all were saved by identifying themselves visibly with Noah. Many profess Christ today and have been baptized, but lack saving faith and have not been united to the Lord Jesus. Only those who are truly united to Christ alone will be spared God’s eternal wrath. If you have never trusted in Christ alone, trust Him today, right now, at this moment. If He is your Lord, look to your baptism today as a sign of your union with Christ alone.